Webster University celebrates student backgrounds at Encountering Differences Film Festival


The differences between borders were the theme of a new film festival that brought together students from around the world. Shika Ralleigh’s film represented her home country and the rich cultural heritage of India.

“I revisited the memories of living in India while making the film,” Ralleigh said. “It refreshed everything I used to do like enjoying street food, getting stuck in long traffic jams, family and friend get-togethers.”

Campus Activities funded the festival. Student employee Safal Thapa had the idea to give other students a chance to show pride in where they come from through film, regardless of major, year, or background.

The object  of the film festival was to create a short film that highlighted the background of the filmmaker. Only two out of the seven student participants are from the United States – the rest come from countries such as India and Egypt. Each film was based on the student’s own experiences.

The top three winners of the festival won prizes. First place received a GoPro HD 4, second place won a Sony underwater camcorder, and third place won a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 15.

Michael Baldridge, a Webster student from Chicago, said he entered the festival to showcase the beauty of his home.

“To me Chicago has always been a very gorgeous city and has unique people,” Baldridge said.

Baldrige also mentioned that making this film made him feel homesick and see his home city in a different way than ever before.  Baldridge said he wanted the audience to encounter “all the nooks and crannies of Chicago.”

Baldridge’s film included mostly drone footage of Chicago, over a track of a Chance the Rapper song. He said when he couldn’t be there to take footage, his father came to the rescue.

Ralleigh said while making her video, she looked through tons of footage from India via YouTube and travel blogs. The problem was that there was so much content she wanted to include and only a 7 minute limit on the video.

“Sometimes we live in our own bubble, not knowing much about our fellow students or people in general,” Ralleigh said. “This film festival is an opportunity for students not just to represent themselves but for the audience to bridge the gaps and kill the cold wave between people.”

Ralleigh said she appreciates the opportunities Webster provides for her and other international students.

“The international community is great at Webster,” Ralleigh said. “I was exposed to so many new things in life which I am grateful for.”

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